We should say right off the bat that while the old G-Body Grand National and GNX were hardcore giant slayers, the new Regal GS isn't intended to be so sharp edged. Those '80s machines were focused on 0-60 times, and looking as sinister as possible. The new Regal is far more civilized that its forebear. They may share a name, but the purpose has changed.
The standard Regal Sportback starts at $25,915 - that's $2,470 less than the outgoing model. It might be the most attractive Buick in decades, at least on the outside. The interior is typical GM, meaning lots of colors and textures without a defining theme. It's powered solely by a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four making 250 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels through a nine-speed automatic.
From behind the wheel, the Regal Sportback is quiet, comfortable, and generally relaxed. The 2.0-liter turbo makes a decent amount of power, but the steering and handling remind you that this isn't a sport sedan. That's not a fault, simply a conscious design choice. Despite what some enthusiasts would lead you to believe, not everything needs to be set up for the Nürburgring.
The Regal Sportback soaks up bumps fairly well, though the car felt light going over some larger bumps on GM's handling course. The steering is completely dead, but it doesn't feel loose or sloppy. There's simply no feedback from the tires. On the other hand, the brakes were surprisingly good. The pedal was firm and confidence-inspiring. Stopping quickly from 60 mph provided no drama.
The $29,995 Regal TourX is a high-riding wagon in the vein of the Subaru Outback, Audi A4 Allroad, and Volvo V60 Cross Country. Like those three, the Regal TourX comes standard with some beefy plastic cladding and all-wheel drive, giving some pretense of off-road capability. Like the Regal Sportback, the Regal TourX is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four. Horsepower stays the same, but torque has been bumped to 295 lb-ft. At launch the Regal TourX will come with an eight-speed automatic, though engineers tell us that the nine-speed will be available later on to replace it.
From behind the wheel the Regal TourX doesn't feel all that much different than the Sportback. Sure, there's a little more low-end grunt, but the extra weight (we were told the all-wheel drive system adds some pounds to the vehicle, but couldn't get a specific number at this stage) negates that somewhat. Other than that, it's the same handsome if generally sedate midsize car.
The Regal GS is the car enthusiasts will care about. This is arguably the coolest Regal since the turbocharged GNX from the late '80s. It looks the business, with sporty but subtle accents to the Regal's already good looking bodywork. Inside, the Regal GS gets a flat-bottom steering wheel and a fantastic sport seat. It's bolstered well enough to keep you planted without making you feel like a bear wearing an inner tube. The Regal GS only comes in Sportback form, though a fast wagon would be a real treat.
While the outgoing Regal GS used a high-output 2.0-liter turbocharged four, the new model get's GM's 3.6-liter, naturally-aspirated V6. In this form, it makes 310 horsepower and 282 lb-ft of torque. Power is sent to all four wheels through a nine-speed automatic. There's no manual this time around, and no paddle shifters, either. Buick's engineers said customers never used them. Still, it's an odd call on what Buick is marketing as a sport sedan.
After driving the two turbocharged models, stepping behind the wheel of the GS was a breath of fresh air. Power builds smoothly from down low, pulling hard all the way to redline. This isn't a screamer; it's just a quietly confident sedan. Performance numbers haven't been revealed, but a 0-60 mph in the mid to high 5-second range feels right. The lack of paddle shifters is disappointing, but the nine-speed feels slick and was always in the right gear at the right time.
The all-wheel drive does a good job of managing power. There's no discernable torque steer, an issue with many high-output front or all-wheel drive cars. A "GS" button on the center console tightens the steering, stiffens the ride, and adjusts the torque split on the all wheel drive system. On GM's handling course, there were a few corners where other drivers kicked up some gravel. The car would slip a small amount before the system would reel you back in. It's good, but you can feel the system working beneath you, so it's not as seamless as some other AWD systems out there.
Steering, like with the other models, is still numb. The "GS" mode adds weight, but there's not much feeling through the wheel. Better tires might help, as the standard Continentals are designed for longevity, comfort, and noise – in that order. In standard mode, the ride is firm without being harsh, but it's difficult to make a final judgement until we get it on public roads.
This new Regal is one of the best cars from Buick in decades. It's certainly one of the best looking. This isn't a hardcore performance sedan, but it's quiet, comfortable, and sporty enough for most people. This brief taster makes us excited for a longer real-world experience with all three of these Regals, but especially the GS.